I have a problem with German.
It has nothing to do with learning the language, a process that is going fairly well. If all goes well with my exam tomorrow, I will be one class away from B1 status. This classifies me as an “independent user” with “threshold or intermediate” language skills, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. It is also the magic level required for integration in Germany, which means that after an integration course (kind of like the US citizenship class) and another test, I will be eligible to renew my residence permit when it expires next year.
So really, I’m learning the language just fine. I even enjoy the language-learning process. (I always do!) It’s a challenge to master the ins and outs of a new language, and it’s always fun to find that I can express myself in a language that, only a year ago, was almost entirely off my radar. Learning the language isn’t the problem.
The problem is that I just don’t love German. Yesterday, while at a local milonga, I found myself talking to a Portuguese man who speaks Spanish and has lived in Germany for several decades. We started out speaking German, but as soon as I exposed my weakness (i.e. couldn’t talk fast enough for him) he asked if I spoke Spanish. And we switched immediately. It was lovely. It was like coming home.
I have a love for Spanish that I can’t explain. I began learning Spanish so early that I don’t even know where that love came from. I loved Spanish even when I couldn’t speak it well. I loved Spanish even when I was failing to grasp the subjunctive. I just loved it. And German just doesn’t feel the same. It’s a bit like when I used to go hiking up mountains on the weekends—it always felt great to get to the top, but I never felt particularly driven to start the next hike. I feel like I am accomplishing something, but when given the choice, I’ll choose Spanish over German every time.